You may be a patient concerned about the symptoms of pneumonia or you may have a friend or relative with symptoms suggestive of pneumonia. There are no universal symptoms that apply to every individual. The symptoms will vary from person to person and depend on the specific situation of each and every individual.
Since the symptoms may vary from person to person, let’s discuss how the symptoms are produced in pneumonia. First, learn a little about how we breathe. This will make it easy for you to understand what pneumonia is and how the symptoms are produced.
How do we breathe? What happens to the air we breathe in?
The air that we breathe in enters our respiratory tract through the nose and then goes down the throat to the windpipe. The windpipe divides into two large branches known as the bronchi. Each bronchus then divides into several small branches called bronchioles. These small bronchioles are located within the lungs. At the end of the bronchiole is a small air sac. These air sacs are termed as alveoli. It is similar to a balloon as it expands when air enters the air sacs during inspiration and collapses when you expire.
Surrounding these air sacs are tiny blood vessels with very thin vessel walls. The oxygen within the alveoli will diffuse into the blood within these vessels and the carbon dioxide diffuses out into the air sacs. This is how your body tissues get oxygen and how the waste material, carbon dioxide is eliminated from the body.
What is pneumonia and how are the symptoms produced?
Pneumonia is when bugs enter your lungs causing an infection. These bugs could be a bacterium, virus, or fungus. However, the most common cause of pneumonia is bacteria. These organisms settle deep within the lungs causing irritation of the nerves, and inflammation and swelling of the air sacs. The irritation of the nerves produces a cough and painful breathing, whereas the inflammation and swelling results in a difficulty in breathing.
The inflammation also causes fluid to accumulate within the air sacs. This fluid accumulation prevents the diffusion of oxygen into the blood within the vessel, thus, reducing the oxygen level in blood.
The organisms sometimes release toxins into the blood causing fever, chills and rigors, weakness, and confusion. However, what is important to know is that not all these symptoms will be found in everyone who develops pneumonia.
A person with very healthy and elastic lungs may develop a bad cough early in the disease to cough the organisms out of the body. However, a person who has a damaged and scarred lungs may not develop a bad cough, but pneumonia may spread to large areas of the lungs before showing any symptoms. The symptoms of pneumonia are mainly due to swelling rather than the irritation of the nerves because their nerves are not that sensitive in the damaged lungs.
A chronic smoker may have saggy big lungs and their presentation will be quite different to others. Their first symptom may be due to a reduced oxygen levels in the blood. As you can see, the symptoms of pneumonia will vary from person to person.
Therefore, if you have any of the symptoms, consult a doctor so that he/she could check if your symptoms fit the pattern of pneumonia.